Global Exchange trip to Tokyo

27 October 2023

Hear from Katie and Juliette about their time spent in Tokyo, Japan. Both girls attended Keio Girls Senior High School, Katie stayed with her buddy Nanaho and Juliette’s buddy was Chiho. 

On our first day we were taken on an excursion with Keio teacher, Mr Mueller, to the historic town of Kamakura. We visited Tokei-ji temple and Hase-dera temple, and then the Great Buddha, which is the largest Bronze Buddha in Japan. We ate soba noodles at a very small restaurant and later on tried lots of local street food.

During our first weekend there, the school was putting on their huge Kannada Festival, which is like a mix between our Founders’ Weekend and an Open Day. The main difference is that their festival is completely run by the girls which was very impressive to see. We got to join in with the traditional flower arrangement club and also took part in our first tea ceremony. We wore yukatas, which are cotton summer kimonos, and also really enjoyed watching the cheerleading, the orchestra and a production of Aladdin.

Mrs Okuyama took us to Asakusa on the Monday after the school festival. Asakusa is considered to be the older part of Tokyo, and today is famous for its blend of traditional and modern cultures. We walked along Nakamise Street and had fun looking at all the traditional craft shops and street-food stalls.

This street lead to Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo and the most visited temple in Japan. It is very popular to buy a fortune, and if you receive a bad fortune you are supposed to tie it to the racks to try and leave it behind. Sadly, we both got bad fortunes!

Finally, we made our way over to the Skytree, the tallest tower in Tokyo, and from the observation deck we could see the whole city.

On our days off school, we got to do some exploring.

Juliette: Chiho and I spent a day exploring Shibuya, witnessed the famous Scramble Square and visited the famous Hachiko statue. On another day, we took a bus tour to go and visit Mount Fuji, which turned out to have similar temperatures to England. We got to the highest accessible point and were very lucky to be able to see up to the top as it had been cloudy. That weekend Chiho and I went to TeamLabo, which is an interactive art museum and then my host family took me to a restaurant with an old sumo ring in the centre. On the final day, Chiho’s mum taught me how to make mochi and gyozas, which was really fun.

Katie: I did so much with my host family that it’s hard to condense. Highlights included all the amazing traditional Japanese restaurants they took me to, such as one right underneath Tokyo tower and one with a sushi conveyer belt. Although the food my host mum made was delicious, my favourite food I tried was definitely eel. Along with trips to Ginza, Shibuya, the art aquarium museum, and a sky bus tour of central Tokyo, going to the only DisneySea in the world was incredible. On the last day my host family took me to Odawara on a bullet train to visit the traditional castle where I got to see samurai armour and a beautiful view of the surrounding area.

On our last weekend we had a koto lesson, Japan’s national instrument, and attended a traditional tea ceremony inside of a temple. Not many people have the opportunity to do this so we were very lucky. After learning a song on the koto we learnt about the method of the tea ceremony. We really liked that all the tea came with sweets before as it was a bit bitter. Then, since we were nearby, we went to see the Olympic stadium.

Overall, one of the most interesting things was going to school over there. Keio is a day school that ends around 3pm, or 5pm if you had clubs. We were surprised at the variety of different activities the girls did, especially the focus on after-school clubs, which made the girls very busy.

We tried a huge variety of lessons, including calligraphy, Japanese history and music – we even borrowed instruments so that we could join in. We enjoyed playing volleyball for the first time and even had a Chemistry lesson (which is hard enough in English, let alone in Japanese). The girls could not have been any friendlier and everyone was really excited to talk to us so we felt really welcome.

I learnt a lot from this experience. I saw how much respect and kindness everyone had for each other.
– Katie, Upper Sixth

Our two weeks in Japan have been something we will remember for the rest of our lives, and we definitely encourage others to sign up. We would like to give a huge thanks to our host families and Keio Girls School for being so accommodating to us and giving us so many opportunities. We would also like to extend our thanks to Ms Akhtar, Miss Adams and the whole global team for all the work they have done to make our exchange possible and support us throughout.

It was the trip of a lifetime. Japan as an exchange destination was extraordinary – there are not enough superlatives in a dictionary to describe how wonderful [my daughter’s] experience was.
– DH Parent

Find out more about the Global Schools’ Exchange Programme here.

 

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